Negril stakeholders wary of spillover violence
Members of the Negril business community are wary of the spate of murders now rocking Hanover and want the police in that resort town to heighten their level of vigilance in order to prevent incidents such as last week's massacre in Logwood in which six members of one family were brutally murdered by marauding gunmen.
The issue was broached during Tuesday night's monthly meeting of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, which was attended by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Adrian Hamilton, the officer in charge of the Negril Police Station.
"I have no doubt that your road ahead is difficult," said hotelier Kevin Levey in addressing the deputy superintendent. "I am just saying that, are we going to wait until what happened in Logwood happens at a hotel in Negril? Are we going to wait for that? Because whatever happens - whether it be drugs - once criminality sets in, it might start with a little circle, but then it spreads and everybody operates that way. Everybody settles disputes that way. Everybody settles scores that way."
The Logwood community, which has been a hotbed of criminality in recent weeks, lies less than five miles from Negril, which makes it a prime location for possible spillover violence.
"And what I am saying - and what I hear the rest of the business community here saying - is that we need to protect this (tourism) because if something like that happens (in Negril) when we have this dispersion of visitors to the area, then none of us are going to be here; the place will just become lawless," continued Levey.
INFLUX of criminals
He also expressed concern that with the impending construction of what is to be the largest hotel in Negril, at Bloody Bay, there would be an influx of outsiders, including criminals.
"Now, the biggest construction project in the history of Negril is about to start, and I would like to know what preparations you are putting in place for that because if we have a squatting problem now, we are going to have a tenfold squatting problem when those workers come here and the crime is going to go up with that," noted Levey.
Daniel Grizzle, another board member of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, said the start of the winter season usually heralds an influx of outsiders, many of whom are persons with criminal intentions.
"We are really concerned because it is always a very dangerous time when it comes to November, December because they (criminals) are broke, and everybody wants their Christmas money," said Grizzle. "We have just had a very bad 12 months in terms of crime, especially in the Negril area. You can't keep anything a secret because with the Internet, within seconds, the information is out there. Guests are already calling to find out what steps are we taking to address this very serious problem, and in all honesty, we can't even reply because we would be telling a lie if we say we are doing anything."
"The authorities seem to not take this threat to our lives very seriously because we see nothing. Something may be done behind the scenes, but as far as we are concerned, we don't see anything," continued Grizzle. "For the last 18 months, we have not seen a uniformed police officer patrolling the beach in Negril. I am not saying it is not happening, but I have not seen it. I am not talking about the (TPDCo) courtesy corps officers because the hustlers and the criminals have no respect for them. What they respect and fear is the uniformed officer."
In responding to the concerns about limited police presence on the beaches in Negril, DSP Hamilton said he has four officers assigned to patrol the beach, two of whom operate covertly.
"I do not only want presence, but effective presence, because we are also concerned that your business on the beach is being affected and we want to sift those persons out by enquiring what they are doing there, asking for their IDs, finding out where they live, so that we can, at least, develop a database of those persons," the lawman said. "Because we need to know who are those persons among us. That's a law-enforcement perspective, but there are lot of other things that have to be done to ensure that we find a solution to the problem."